Stephen Antonakos’s Proscenium by Marjorie Welish

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 75 Spring 2001
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New York Live Arts presents

Marjani Forte
Nov 15-19


The Neuberger Museum of Art is immediately memorable, if for no other reason than the galleries are singularly broad and deep: proportion and scale of this acclaimed modernist space are eloquent, not overbearing. Designed by Philip Johnson, leaving Mies for Kahn, the museum, with its gallery for special installations, presented an entirely appropriate architectonic challenge to the light artist Stephen Antonakos. With aspects of hall and stage to engage, Antonakos evidently decided to let the darkness of deep space assert itself. Proscenium is, in effect, a drawing in neon unleashed across the gallery’s vast walls to animate the dark space, 60 feet deep, and to enliven the architecture’s solemn structural dignity. An expressive rather than intellectual logic, Proscenium promotes the inherent excitement of pulsating lights seen suddenly—a stringent vividness peculiar to strong sunlight, or lightning. The doubling of neon elements facing out toward the room and back to the walls may be a device associated with Dan Flavin, but Antonakos deploys it here for high-voltage visuality and expressive effect. And further: these elements bracketed to the walls inches away leave a broad hallucinogenic penumbra of reflected hues—indirect light that contrasts with the sharply focused line and direct light made by the neon tubes. Imagine a calligraphic gesture creating form, entirely at ease with technological materials, neither utopic nor dystopic, but situated in the present, and you have imagined some of the effectiveness of Antonakos’s art. As it happened one day during a viewing of his piece, a few of the museum staff, apparently in a spontaneous demonstration to visitors, were seen at the far wall miming the undulating rising path taken by the neon. A moment’s inspiration, their corporeal mimicry was entirely serendipitous. Antonakos’s approach to electrified technology is decidedly directed toward capturing—and releasing—physically embodied light and energy. The spectator’s glad dance to the rhythm of his piece provided enough of that.

Stephen Antonako’s Proscenium: A Neon Installation was on view in the Theater Gallery at the Neuberger Museum of Art from September 24, 2000–January 7, 2001.

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Originally published in

BOMB 75, Spring 2001

Featuring interviews with Wendy Wasserstein, Wong Kar-Wai, Amos Gitai, Eduardo Galeano, Tobias Schneebaum, Micheal Goldberg, Samuel Mockbee, Andrea Zittel. 

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